United Kingdom Nacio Herb Brown & Arthur Freed, Singin’ In The Rain: Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 01.03.14 (SRT)
Don Lockwood – James Leece
Kathy Selden – Amy Ellen Richardson
Cosmo Brown – Stephane Anelli
R F Simpson – Maxwell Caulfield
Lina Lamont – Faye Tozer
Director – Jonathan Church
Choreographer – Andrew Wright
Designer – Simon Higlett
Tim Mitchell – Lighting
Music director/Piano – John Donovan
When films are turned into stage shows they don’t always work (their cinematic nature doesn’t lend itself naturally to in-the-flesh theatre), but this one does. Triumphantly so, in fact, due to some top notch performers and a story and score that really works. It’s hard to believe, but the songs for Singin’ in the Rain were mostly cobbled together from other sources, with a story constructed to hold them all together, not unlike the Juke Box Musicals that we are now so used to seeing in the West End. That comes through occasionally (the reason for exactly why Don Lockwood is singin’ in the rain is left rather unclear, as is the reason for why they have stayed up all night to sing Good Morning), but who cares when the overall result is so good?
The story, about the coming of the talkies in 1927 Hollywood, fulfils a lot of the archetypes of Hollywood musicals: a love triangle, a buddy story and a tale of talent and virtue winning out in the end. The songs are all eminently memorable and the story keeps moving at a snappy pace. The only place where things flag is the dreamlike Broadway ballet in the second half, which is too long to little purpose, but makes up for it with some glitzy staging and a whole lotta dancing. Simon Higlett’s designs, in general, tell the story in a straightforward but glamorous manner, and the subtle use of props means that scene changes can take place quickly.
The cast are all very strong, with the central buddy pair of Don and Cosmo taken particularly well. James Leece has the stage presence and winnable voice to play the romantic lead, but Stephane Anelli has the better command of the physical role, and not just in the dance numbers; his comic pacing and his impressive command of slapstick make Make ‘em Laugh one of the highlights of the first half. Amy Ellen Richardson plays Kathy fairly straight but very convincingly, but she is all but upstaged by Faye Tozer (anyone remember Steps?) who hams it up brilliantly as Lina, both physically and vocally relishing the role’s comic potential.
Maxwell Caulfield adds a tiny touch of stardust as the studio owner. The band, led by John Donovan, do a fantastic job keeping the whole thing together, even if they are cooped up almost out of sight in their box at the top of the set, and Andrew Wright’s choreography is brought to life excitingly, especially in the full company numbers. Both halves end with the famous Singin’ in the Rain numbers, and it’s undeniably more impressive in the second half, with the full company twirling umbrellas, kicking up spray, and generally having a whale of a time. I left the theatre into a dreich Edinburgh evening where the skies were beginning to open but, for once, nobody seemed to mind.